It seems as if we just started the year, and now before we blink, it’s time to celebrate Christmas again. This time of year, many of us take the opportunity to reflect on our lives and maybe even how we relate to God given that we are celebrating Jesus’ birth. Obviously, not everyone has come to a point in their lives where they believe in God. That doesn’t mean Christmas is any less special to them, it just has a different meaning.
Being raised in a Christian home obviously had a significant impact on how I came to believe in God. I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in Him. That doesn’t mean I always chose to follow Him, and even after I made the decision at 13 to do just that, I have strayed from religion and serving Him over the years. In the last few years, I finally began to venture back on to the path back to Him and part of that has really been to build upon the basic beliefs I had as a child. What I mean by that is that I have been trying to understand the foundation of what I believe and why, and to really understand God on a much more personal, or dare I say mature, level.
Over the last two years, I finally finished reading the entire Bible. I consider it quite a feat, not because I am anything special, but quite the opposite. I’ve never been a voracious reader and my mind tends to wander when I try to read, so tackling something as large as the Bible is a monumental task for me. I can’t say I understand everything in the book, or that I’ve even solidified my thoughts on some parts of what I read. But as many people smarter than I am would tell you, start with Jesus and work out from there.
I am in the middle of reading the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and it really frames up the discussion about Jesus that each of us should consider for ourselves. I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but ultimately the point Lewis makes is that you cannot think of Jesus as just a good or moral teacher. You could chalk Him up to be a crazy man, because not only did He claim to be God, He made some crazy claims like He could raise the dead. You can’t really think of Him as good if He is not God because then He’s basically the biggest liar that has ever lived. But if you decide not to write Him off, or think He’s insane or a liar, then you really only have one alternative, and that is to believe that He is everything He claimed to be, which means He was God.
I obviously accept Him as God, and while some may say that is because I was raised in a Christian home, it’s built on so much more than what my parents told me. No matter what background you come from, at some point, if you end up believing in a higher power there will be some step of faith you must take, whether big or small. My parents may have helped close the gap, but I had to go the rest of the way on my own. In my opinion, the best evidence lies in the undeniable impact that Jesus has had on our world.
I’m going to use a short essay entitled “One Solitary Life” from Dr. James Allan Francis, because he sums it up so much better than I could…
Let us turn now to the story. A child is born in an obscure village. He is brought up in another obscure village. He works in a carpenter shop until he is thirty, and then for three brief years is an itinerant preacher, proclaiming a message and living a life. He never writes a book. He never holds an office. He never raises an army. He never has a family of his own. He never owns a home. He never goes to college. He never travels two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He gathers a little group of friends about him and teaches them his way of life. While still a young man, the tide of popular feeling turns against him. One denies him; another betrays him. He is turned over to his enemies. He goes through the mockery of a trial; he is nailed to a cross between two thieves, and when dead is laid in a borrowed grave by the kindness of a friend.
Those are the facts of his human life. He rises from the dead. Today we look back across nineteen hundred years and ask, What kind of trail has he left across the centuries? When we try to sum up his influence, all the armies that ever marched, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned are absolutely picayune in their influence on mankind compared with that of this one solitary life.
We could point to different things as evidence, and even debate back and forth about, but we’d likely end up in the same place as we are now, but maybe with a better understanding of each other’s basis for our beliefs. Besides, if I could convince you with a winsome argument, someone else could convince you of something else. But if knowing where I am coming from helps you in some way to decide that you need to do your own reading or investigation on the topic, then I believe I have done my job. I believe that every person needs to decide for themselves what all this means because it is simply too important to ignore.
What’s mind blowing to me about Christianity is that we are the only religion that has at the center of its teachings the complete humiliation of its supreme being. In every epic story created by men, the hero is glorified. In every other known religion, there is something that man can do in and of himself to obtain sanctification of his own sins. The claim of Christianity that God sent His son in such an unassuming package as a little child in a manger, only lives a short time, has a remarkably short ministry, and then He eventually is tortured and murdered and yet His life has had a bigger impact on this world than any other just doesn’t seem to be something I can ignore. I think most people could agree that there has to be something more there, even if we may not agree on His deity. But consider again the essay above by Dr. Francis. Again, I don’t claim to understand it all, not by a long shot. But it does keep my nose in the Bible to try to learn what He wants us all to learn. I hope that you either start or continue your quest for the truth.